Now that UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping is once again scheduled to fight former welterweight king Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 on Nov. 4 from inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, the UFC’s disgruntled middleweight division is officially free to complain and protest. After all, GSP hasn’t fought in nearly four years and is jumping into an immediate title shot in a weight class higher than his normal stomping ground. The matchup is disliked by many, especially former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold who recently pointed out Bisping’s lack of competition over the past year.
"Bisping has fought nobody in the top 10 for the last year-and-a-half and still isn't going to fight anybody in the top 10," Rockhold told ESPN. "Where does that put him? I think they should pull the title from guys like that who don't fight anybody at the top. They pulled the title from [Germaine de Randamie] because she wouldn't fight the No. 1 contender. Why is this any f--king different?”
Remember, Bisping defeated Rockhold at UFC 199 via first-round knockout to claim the title, then defended it against a retiring Dan Henderson at UFC 204, and now is set to take on a returning fighter who has never competed at 185 pounds. Whichever way you look at it, that’s an obscure path for a champion.
"We'll see if Georges even makes it to the fight,” Rockhold added. “The guy has been out for so long, who knows where his head or his body is at, or if he actually makes it to that date. I'm going to go out and do what I have to do and we'll see where everything is at that moment in time."
As for Rockhold, he’ll have the opportunity to grab his first win since losing his belt to Bisping when he takes on David Branch at UFC Fight Night 116 on Sept. 16 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It may not be the opponent Rockhold wanted, or even needed, to get back into title contention entering 2018, but one who matched up well with his Octagon return.
"I tried waiting for the right fight, but September is the most logical main event spot. I'm a five-round fighter. That's what I fight,” Rockhold said. “That's the true tell of a fighter. They wanted Yoel Romero, I said, 'Yeah, let's do Yoel Romero, September 16.' His camp tried to delay, said they needed three more weeks for a three-round fight specifically.”
"I want to fight a five-round fight. That's what it is. Everyone knows Yoel has problems going the five. I don't. I'm not going to force a fight with a guy. I'm not going to leave it up to the judges. I'm going to be technical, I'm going to be solid and I'm going to fight a real man's fight. There's a reason championship fights are five rounds."
If Rockhold can get back into the win column and prove he’s still the top dog in the UFC’s fluctuating middleweight division then he’ll have no issues locking down a title shot by this time next year.